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Monday, July 18, 2016
The Men's Ward - New York Presbyterian Psychiatric Hospital (chapter 3)
Monday, August 9th 5:00 pm
Driving back home from the hospital I can’t speak. I am working so hard to hold on, to keep from completely disintegrating at the thought of having checked our son into that psychiatric ward, that I wonder how I will get through the next hour, and the hour after that, and the one after. I had called my sisters from the ER last night after receiving the first doctor’s pronouncement of schizophrenia, and they had offered immediately to come and help. No, I told them … there’s nothing you could do, I will keep you posted. But today, I realize that I am completely dysfunctional at the moment, and it is not fair to rest everything on my husband’s shoulders. I text an SOS to my sisters. Literally. Very quickly I get a text back telling me help is on the way… details to follow. I put away my phone and focus on breathing.
Later that day we arrive back at the men’s ward with Scott’s belongings. I don’t remember packing them, nor driving back to the hospital. I remember ... collapsing on the couch in our living room, literally prostrate with the pain of what was happening to Scott. I remember, my husband trying to comfort me, telling me that he promised me our son would be ok, and my telling him not to make promises he could not keep. I remember, hearing my husband, who had gone down to the basement to try to keep the sound of his sobs from me.
Scott is out cold. A tray of food sits on the table in his room. There is some round flat breaded something, which I expect is meat of some type. There are also round carrots, the frozen kind. It crosses my mind that I think they are called “carrot coins”. I can hardly imagine a less appealing looking dinner. A kind nurse is on duty. She smiles at us and we sit together in white plastic chairs in the hallway outside Scott’s room.
She tells us that he tried to leave after we did and did not react well to finding the doors locked. He punched the walls and became angry. He is not a small guy, and his fury when he is manic can be intimidating. Apparently they gave him some serious tranquilizers since he is now completely comatose. He did not stir when we touched his shoulder or called his name. She reassures us that sleep is the best thing for him now. It is how the brain heals itself she says. We tell her about our experience at the ER. Amazingly, she scoffs at the ER doc’s diagnosis. I am only a nurse she says, but I can tell you he is not schizophrenic. This is most likely a drug induced psychosis, or mania from bipolar.
Unbelievable! I am so relieved tears fill my eyes. I may have actually taken her hand to thank her for sharing this insight with us. I walk out of the ward to make a phone call since cell phones are not allowed on the floor. I call my younger sister, who lives in Washington DC and is already en-route to New York. “The nurse says she doesn’t think it is schizophrenia,” I say joyfully into the phone. “It’s most likely bipolar”. My sister pauses, not quite sure how to take the information. When did a diagnosis of bipolar become joyful news she must have wondered. We share details on her ETA and that she should just let herself into the house since we will be asleep before her arrival estimate of midnight. That night, we sleep the sleep of the dead. In all honesty, for me it is an Ambien-induced slumber. My goal was to sleep instantly and not have time to think.